The women may have been laughing at the humorous rhyming of this children's book, but their business was serious. Most of them are home day-care providers - women who keep up to six children in their homes every day, all day - and they were learning how important it is to read aloud to their young charges.
"You have to get them (children) early," said Marcia Moon of the Children's Literacy Initiative, which sponsored the workshop for about 50 home day-care workers.
"Some educators say that by third grade, if they haven't been hooked on reading, it may be too late."
Moon added that the mission of the day-care provider or preschool teacher ''is not to teach the children how to read, but to make them love books."
The women, most of them mothers and grandmothers, filled out a survey showing that most spend about 2 percent of their time reading books to the children. Most, especially those who care for both infants and older children, are preoccupied with feeding them, supervising their play, getting them to take naps and refereeing disagreements.
Many said that they understood the importance of reading, but noted that they weren't teachers and might not quite know how to go about it in a way that would hold the interest of the children.
What the Children's Literacy Initiative does is help the women choose books.
Yesterday, Moon and other group leaders led the women through staged readings, prodding them about questions they could ask the children and activities they could pursue after reading.
They also talked about the dangers of letting the children watch too much television.
"I read as often as I possibly can," said McGuire, a grandmother from West Oak Lane. "My mother read to me. Any opportunity I get I read to them. But I have infants 4 months and 13 months and a 2-year-old. So I can't do it now the way I want to."
Moon tried to convince the women that it was important to try to read at least 10 percent of the time the children are with them. Margaret Richardson, another provider, said she agreed.
"I go along with what she's saying," said Richardson, who cares for five children in her home.
Because many of the women can't afford to go out and create a library in their homes, the Children's Literacy Initiative also had 18 books for each provider. They could choose the books based on the age levels of the children they are caring for.
The women at the seminar are licensed through Associated Day Care, a private, nonprofit agency that monitors conditions in their homes and sponsors training sessions like this one.
Connie Falcone, a coordinator for Associated Day Care, said that her agency serves mostly single parents who qualify for a state child-care subsidy. "We really need programs like this," she said.
Last week, the Children's Literacy Initiative, which is funded through corporations and foundations, held a similar session for another 50 Associated providers. Falcone said the feedback had been positive.
"I've had several tell me that since they started reading the children books, the children can't get enough of them," Falcone said.